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Update on ICRC activities in Iraq following the airstrikes

18-12-1998 Operational Update

 ICRC Reminds Parties of their Obligations  

In view of the military operations launched against Iraq on the night of 16 to 17 December, the ICRC yesterday addressed a diplomatic note to the United States, British and Iraqi governments reminding them of their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Under this body of law, those conducting the hostilities must take all necessary precautions to spare civilians and civilian property, to treat captured persons humanely, to ensure that the wounded and sick have access to medical care, to protect medical facilities, staff and means of transport, and to guarantee respect for the red cross and red crescent emblems.

 ICRC activities in Iraq  

Meanwhile, the ICRC team in Baghdad, including a nurse and a water engineer, are gathering information from the city's hospitals and from the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs with a view to reacting to emerging needs, in accordance with the mandate entrusted to the organization by the international community. In a first stage, emergency medical assistance to the medical facilities will be channelled from the ICRC through the Iraqi Red Crescent. It was agreed with the Iraqi Red Crescent and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is also present in Baghdad, that in this context the ICRC shall act as lead agency within the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement.

Since the 1991 Gulf war, the ICRC ha s been giving support to water treatment plants throughout the country in order to provide the population with clean water. In addition, it delivers emergency medical supplies and assistance to the victims of the ongoing hostilities in northern Iraq.

The ICRC has an essential staff of 10 expatriates who have voluntarily remained in Baghdad and a further 8 persons in northern Iraq, and it can be stressed that the ICRC plans to stay in Iraq, in order to carry out its main activities; these are: detention work, water and sanitation activities to support the water boards, support to prosthetic/orthotic centres for amputees (of which over 50% are mine victims); as well as detention, relief and medical work in northern Iraq.

As regards security, the ICRC is obviously following events extremely closely. Certain security measures had to be implemented. 13 family members and non-essential staff left Iraq yesterday and arrived this morning in Amman, Jordan.